While President Trump has sent the country and specifically 800,000 young immigrants down a treacherous path by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, other American institutions are responding admirably.
Entities from the National League of Cities (“As city leaders, it saddens us to see the president dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and place 800,000 of our young residents in a state of limbo”) to Microsoft, Apple and Google blasted Trump’s move and implored Congress to act swiftly. (Apple chief executive Tim Cook said, “On behalf of the hundreds of employees at Apple whose futures are at stake; on behalf of their colleagues and on behalf of the millions more across America who believe, as we do, in the power of dreams, we issue an urgent plea for our leaders in Washington to protect the Dreamers so their futures can never be put at risk in this way again.”)
The Hill noted, “Business leaders, corporations and universities lined up to condemn Trump’s phased-out termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era administrative program for people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.” Harvard University President Drew Faust put out a statement slamming the move, “This cruel policy recognizes neither justice nor mercy. In the months to come, we will make every effort to have our voice heard, in the halls of Congress and elsewhere, about the need for the protections of DACA to continue.” When President Barack Obama, business groups and some Republican governors are united, you have the makings of a broad, bipartisan coalition to intercept the president’s bouquet to his white-nationalist base.
Meanwhile, at least two efforts are underway to rescue DACA. Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) held a news conference to tout a DACA fix. Durbin related an assurance he received from Trump on the “dreamers,” which now has proved meaningless. He declared that the Dream Act, which they previously championed, be passed in September. Graham reaffirmed that the dreamers had “done nothing wrong.” He challenged the president to get involved in working the phones (a questionable tactic given how incapable he has been in persuading lawmakers). Graham dubbed passage of the Dream Act a “win-win” that complies with constitutional process and does right by the young people who came here as children. As he put it, the Dream Act is “a good down payment on comprehensive immigration reform.” (He did not say that the dreamers can only be rescued if the Congress passed comprehensive reform, which almost certainly will not happen anytime soon.)
Meanwhile in the House, Rep. Carlos Cubelo (R-Fla.) pushed his party to bring up for a vote legislation he had previously introduced, the Recognizing America’s Children Act, to fix DACA. He made an impassioned plea: “I encourage the President to focus on deporting criminals, not enforcement that divides families. But more importantly, I urge all my Congressional colleagues who want to help these young people — all thoroughly vetted — to support responsible immigration policies like the RAC Act, and I call on Leadership to bring it to the Floor for a vote.” Two moderate Republican House members (Leonard Lane of New Jersey and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois) weighed in with their support, but it’s far from clear the speaker will heed his call.
In sum, there is no shortage of support within Congress and in the country at large (where polling shows nearly 80 percent of voters favor DACA) to spare the dreamers. However, great uncertainty remains as to the means for getting this done, the legislative vehicle to be used and the commitment of GOP House and Senate leaders, who talk a good game but shrink from confrontation with the white-nationalist segment of their base.
Three things are clear, however. First, outside voices must elevate this issue to equal importance with government funding and Harvey relief bills. Second, a DACA fix of the type described above is the most feasible way to go; waiting around for comprehensive immigration will leave dreamers with no realistic chance of relief within the six month time frame. And finally, Trump understands the value of a deadline — even an artificial one. DACA defenders should do the same, treating a DACA fix as a must have to be done this month alongside the government funding and debt-limit legislation. We are about to find out how serious Republicans are about fixing the mess Trump made and how willing Democrats are to hold up other measures, if need be, to get this done.